The latest in the increasingly popular “live-to-film” concert trend is The Godfather, which had its Los Angeles debut on Saturday with Justin Freer conducting the Hollywood Studio Symphony while the 1972 classic unspooled on-screen. This preview story gave me a chance to look back at the Oscar music controversy that occurred in early 1973 — and to hear from a musician who actually played for legendary composer Nino Rota on the The Godfather Part II in 1974, then played in Saturday’s concert, which I reviewed here for Variety.
“Old man, how is it that you hear these things?” “Young man, how is it that you do not?” For the David Carradine series of the 1970s, composer Jim Helms (1933-1991) created some of the most evocative and mystical music in TV history. Helms himself was something of a cipher, known within Hollywood musical circles and to those with whom he worked… but not to the world at large. I interviewed flutist Sheridon Stokes, keyboardist Mike Lang and percussionist Emil Richards, who played on many of the scores, as well as fellow songwriter Gary LeMel and series producer Alex Beaton. This CD was derived from the 1973 LP, a rare instance in which music and dialogue actually work well together. (I recall reading the Kung Fu book and being furious that there was no mention anywhere of the music, clearly one of the crucial factors that made it so memorable. In this booklet, I attempted to redress this grievance. I even discovered a portrait of Helms from the 1960s that art director Joe Sikoryak improved upon.)